For a variety of reasons, kids can have a hard time falling asleep at night or sleeping for extended periods of time. However, getting several hours of uninterrupted sleep is vital to a child’s physical and psychological development. For this reason, parents should work to ensure their children are getting enough rest. Here are six strategies you can use to help your child sleep better.
Teach Your Child a Breathing Exercise
If your child has a hard time falling asleep at night, a breathing exercise might prove helpful. By shifting a child’s focus onto controlling their respiration, their thought process will slow down and become more relaxed. Additionally, breathing exercises have the effect of slowing down your body’s heart rate, which will make falling asleep much easier. Equal breathing, wherein a person inhales, counts to four and then exhales through their nose is a highly effective breathing exercise that a child can learn very quickly.
Keep Their Bedroom Allergen-free
Household allergens like dust mites, pet dander and even insect debris can aggravate a child’s respiratory system, causing them to become congested. Because proper respiration is an essential part of the sleeping process, children who have impaired breathing find it difficult to fall asleep. As such, it’s important to keep a child’s bedroom free of allergens by washing their bedding in hot water weekly, keeping any family pets from sleeping in their bedroom and making sure their room is dusted and vacuumed regularly.
Maintain a Consistent Pre-Bedtime Ritual
The sleeping process is broken up into several different phases, the deepest of which is REM sleep. When a child’s normal sleep pattern is disrupted, they will struggle to enter into the REM phase of sleep and will awaken feeling tired, unfocused and listless. To avoid this, make sure that the TV is off, a shower has been well in advance and all homework is done before bedtime.
Cut Out the Junk Food
While it’s okay for a child to have a glass of water or a light snack near bedtime, any foods or drinks that contain stimulants should be avoided before lights out. Caffeine-rich sodas and sugar-packed junk foods will raise your child’s heart rate and imbalance their blood sugar, two conditions that are not conducive to restful sleep.
No Video Games Before Bed
A 2007 study found that kids who play video games for an hour before bedtime experience significant sleep disruption. This is due to a combination of two factors. One, many video games provide intense visual and auditory stimulation, which has the effect of causing an adrenaline rush. And two, because playing video games is a largely sedentary activity, the excess adrenaline has no outlet. Consequently, video games should not be played two to three hours before bedtime.
The Bed is for Sleeping Only
When your child engages in non-sleep-related activities in bed, that space is no longer reserved just for rest. By making it a rule that your child cannot read or watch TV, lying down will become an unconscious trigger for the brain to switch the body into sleep mode. If a child’s heart rate slows and body temperature drops from the moment their head hits the pillow, they will fall asleep easily.
If none of these strategies have an impact on your child’s ability to fall asleep, contact us to set up an appointment with Dr. Shukla today. He has the skills and experience to diagnose your child’s sleep disorder and prescribe an effective course of treatment.